The growing culture of “I don’t know how to cook”

Category: Featured, Prahran, South Melbourne

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Written by Syd Weddell, Managing Director of The Essential Ingredient Franchise Group

We have long admired Stephanie Alexander and her work with children in encouraging them to experience food grown from the earth and how to cook and combine flavours. These experiences may be the first time that these children have handled raw food and created a meal.

Since the 1960s there has been a growing trend that sees children raised in families where both parents are in the workforce or they come from a working single parent family. At the same time our society has seen an explosion of food manufacturers (Australia’s largest manufacturing industry is now food) who have a vested interest in “dumbing down” the population when it comes to preparing food and cooking it. This combination of children not being able to learn how to cook from parents and the quick and often easy alternative of the family being fed with manufactured “heat and eat” foods has led to a whole generation which is unaware of how to prepare nourishing and interesting meals.

Over the past 30 or so years, we have seen an increasing number of young adults who are unable to identify many of the fruits and vegetables available in our markets, do not own basic cooking utensils and have little or no cooking expertise. This is not due to any economic disadvantage, but because they have had no home kitchen cooking experiences growing up. Prepared foods, take-away foods and cafes seem to be the only eating experiences many have had.

More recently there has become a social expectation to entertain and have a certain knowledge of food as part of “the café society” we live in. It is at this point many young people realise that they are in desperate need of improving their life skills and approach us. To assist in the best way we know how, we offer:

  • Informed in-store advice on quality pantry items, kitchen utensils and electrical equipment
  • Hands–on cooking classes, including knife handling, roasting and much more
  • Access to local markets, identifying fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry

In 2016 we introduced a range of hand-forged kitchen garden tools as we understand the connection between provenance of ingredients and the quality of the resulting dishes.

We are experiencing a growing polarised market of home cooks wanting to improve upon their already good understanding of food preparation and those with a very poor knowledge. So the challenge is forever before us to make relevant the enjoyment and art of cooking to an emerging population whose food education is beginning when they are adults.


Since 1990 Syd has been shaping the vision of The Essential Ingredient as a market leading retailer and supplier to aspiring home cooks and discerning chefs.



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